The Young Hitler I Knew – August Kubizek
Chapter 8 –
The Young Nationalist.

As I begin to describe the young Hitler's political beliefs and ideas, I seem to hear his voice again, saying, "You don't understand it," or, "These are matters I can't discuss with you"; sometimes he was even more scathing, as for instance when listening to some of his political observations, I would nod assent, instead of expressing disgust, as he had expected: "In politics, Gustl, you are nothing but a fool."

After all, I had only one interest in life: music. To begin with, Adolf agreed with me about the supremacy of art. But during the years we spent together, his interest in politics gradually became paramount, although he never lost sight of his artistic aspirations. One could put it this way: the years in Linz were dominated by art, the following years in Vienna, by politics. I was fully aware that it was only in artistic matters I counted for him. And the more he became interested in politics, the less our friendship mattered. Not that he showed it to me; for one thing he took our friendship too seriously and, for another, perhaps he didn't even realise it himself.

Politics had always been the critical point in our relationship. Having no political ideas of my own, or where I did have, not feeling strongly enough about them to defend them or to impose them on others, I was an unsatisfactory partner for Adolf in our discussions. He would rather have converted me than convinced me. But in fact, I accepted everything he said readily and uncritically, and even retained something so that I could occasionally throw in a clever remark, But to contradict, as he would have liked, I was not capable. I just was not fertile soil for politics. I was like a deaf-mute in front of an orchestra, who sees that the musicians are playing, but hears nothing. I had simply no political sense.

This reduced Adolf to despair. It seemed inconceivable to him that there should be on earth a specimen so absolutely innocent of politics. He tried all means to prove to me that this was impossible. And he was none too gentle with me. In Vienna he compelled me repeatedly to go with him to Parliament, although I did not like it at all and would have preferred to spend the time at the piano. But Adolf did not yield. I had to go with him, although he knew very well that I was always terribly bored by this Parliament business. But Heaven help me if I had said so.

It is generally believed that politicians come from politically conscious circles. This was certainly not so in the case of my friend. On the contrary! Here again is one of Hitler's innumerable contradictions. The father was rather fond of talking politics and never hid his liberal opinions. But he would not hear a word against the Monarchy: this old, faithful civil servant would never go as far as that. When on the Emperor's birthday on the eighteenth of August, he put on his gala uniform, he was a loyal servant of his Imperial and Royal Majesty. Probably Adolf, when little, never beard much talk of politics from his father, for politics, the father believed, was not a matter to be discussed in the family circle, but in the pub. And I cannot remember that Adolf had ever quoted his father for any one of his political opinions.

Still less was there any sign of it in the quiet home in the Humboldtstrasse. Adolf's mother was a simple, devout woman, far removed from politics. When the father was still alive she might have heard him grumble occasionally about the political situation, but it had not sunk in and certainly she had not passed it on to the children. After his death, they never had visitors who might have introduced politics and I cannot remember ever hearing any political discussion in Frau Hitler's house. Even when some political event was agitating the whole town, nothing of it would penetrate into this quiet household, for even Adolf would not mention such things at home. Their life flowed quietly on. The only change I ever saw in the family was that Frau Klara towards the end of 1906 moved from the Humboldtstrasse to Urfahr. This was by no means an after-effect of the father's restlessness, it was rather the result of purely practical considerations. In those days Urfahr, which is now a part of Linz, was still a separate parish of mainly rural character, a favourite residence for retired people. As no excise duties were levied there, many things, for instance meat, were cheaper than in town. Frau Klara hoped to be able to manage better with her modest pension of 140 crowns (90 for herself and 25 each for Adolf and Paula). And she was glad to be living among meadows and fields again. The quiet house at No. 9 Blütengasse still stands as it was, and sometimes when I pass by, I think I can see Frau Klara standing on the little balcony. For Adolf it was a special source of satisfaction to live "on the same bank" as Stefanie. Our nightly journey home was made longer because of the move to Urfahr. But this suited us well, for the problems which we tackled had become more profound and numerous. The way across the bridge was sometimes too short for us, so that if we were particularly concerned with a problem we had to walk to and fro across the Danube until our subject was exhausted. To be exact, Adolf needed the time for talking, and I for listening

In studying the political career of such an extraordinary man as Adolf Hitler, one has to distinguish between external influences and the man's own predispositions, for I believe that the latter are much more important than the external events. After all, many other young people had the same teachers as Adolf, experienced the same political incidents, rejoicing or getting angry over them, and yet these very same people have become worthy businessmen, technicians or manufacturers and never rose to political significance.

The spirit of nationalism dominated the Linz Technical School. The class was secretly opposed to all traditional institutions, such as patriotic plays, dynastic manifestations and festivals, to Divine Service in school and to Corpus Christi processions. Adolf Hitler describes in his book this atmosphere which to him was more important than the lessons.

Money was collected for Sudmark and Schulverein, one's sentiments were manifested by wearing cornflowers and black-red-gold colours, we used "Heil" as a greeting and sang "Deutschland über Alles" instead of the Hapsburg Imperial Hymn. All this in spite of warnings and punishment.

The struggle for existence of the German population in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy agitated the younger generation in those days; understandably, for Austria's German population stood alone in the midst of the Slav, Magyar and Italian nations of Austria-Hungary. Linz, to be sure, was remote from the racial border and was entirely German. But there was always trouble in neighbouring Bohemia. In Prague one street demonstration after another took place. Even in Linz much indignation was caused by the fact that the Imperial and Royal police were not capable of protecting German houses from the Czech mob, so that it was necessary to proclaim a state of siege in Prague in peacetime. Budweis was then still a German town with German administration and a German majority in the Town Council. Those of Adolf's classmates who came from Prague, Budweis or Prachatitz used to weep with rage when they were jokingly called "Bohemians"; for they wanted to be solely German, like the others. Soon there was even unrest in Linz. A few hundred Czechs lived there, as quiet and modest workmen and artisans, without anybody taking much notice of them. Now a Capucine Monk, a Czech named Jurasek, founded a Sokol Club, preached in St. Martin's Church in Czech, and collected money for the building of a Czech school. This caused a great sensation in the town and some worthy Nationalists already saw in the action of the fanatic monk the preparation of a Czech invasion. Of course that was exaggerated. Nevertheless, just this Czech activity made the indolent Linzers feel that they were threatened, with the result that, almost unanimously, they joined in the Nationalist struggle.

Those teachers of the Technical School, who were nationalists, led the struggle. Dr. Leopold Pötsch, the history teacher, was an active politician. As a member of the Town Council he was one of the leading lights of the Nationalist Party. He hated the Hapsburg multi-racial state (which today – what a change – seems to us to be the very model of a supranational community) and all the enthusiastic young Nationalists took up his watchword.

"Who could remain loyal to a dynasty which again and again vilely betrayed, past and present, the interests of the German people for their own advantage?"

Thus Hitler definitely and irrevocably had abandoned his father's ways in favour of a pan-German program. When Adolf, raging on, let himself go on this train of thought, I could hardly keep up with what he was saying, let alone take an active part in the discussion. Yet one word, which regularly cropped up in his discourse, always struck me: the "Reich." With this word he used to wind up his long outpourings. Whenever he had talked himself into a blind alley and was at a loss how to continue, he would say categorically: "This problem will be solved by the Reich"; if I asked, for instance, who would finance all these gigantic building projects which he sketched on his drawing board, his brief answer was, "The Reich." Even trivialities were left to the care of the "Reich." There was a "Reich's Stage Designer," who would improve the unsatisfactory equipment of provincial theatres. (It is well known that, after 1933, there really was a man who filled that post. I remember that Adolf Hitler coined that term as far back as his Linz days, when he was sixteen or seventeen.) Even the care of the blind, or the protection of animals belonged, in his opinion, to the jurisdiction of the "Reich"!

The word "Reich" is used in Austria for the territory of Germany; its inhabitants are called Reich's Germans. But my friend's use of the term, meant more than merely the German State, though he carefully avoided any more exact definition. For to him the word was simply a portmanteau expression, which comprised everything that was politically important for him-and that was a lot.

With the same fanaticism with which he loved the German people, and this "Reich," did he reject everything foreign. He had no desire to know other countries. That longing for distant lands so typical of all open-minded young people was utterly alien to him – even the artist's classical enthusiasm for Italy. There was only one place for his plans and ideas – the Reich.

His violent nationalism, which was unequivocally directed against the Hapsburg Monarchy, showed all the particular predispositions of his character, especially the iron consistency with which he stuck to everything he had once accepted as correct. The Nationalist ideology became his political creed and formed an unalterable element of his nature. No failure or setback would change him. He remained till his death what he had been at sixteen – a Nationalist.

With this end firmly fixed before his eyes, he observed and studied the existing political conditions. Nothing was too unimportant; he gave his attention to even the most trivial things. He took a stand in regard to everything-the less it concerned him, the more heatedly. He made up for the utter insignificance of his own existence by taking an interest in all public affairs, thus giving aim and direction to his urge to change things. With all his all-embracing interests, he had so much against him, and he saw everywhere only obstacles and hostility. And yet, nobody had ever heard of him. Sometimes I was even sorry for him. With his undoubted gifts, what a happy life he could have led; and how difficult he made things for himself! He was always up against something and at odds with the world. Just that healthy, carefree spirit which distinguishes most young people was utterly alien to him. I never saw him take anything lightly; everything had to be thoroughly studied and tested for how it would fit into his great political design. Tradition, in the political sense, meant nothing to him. To sum up – the world had to be radically changed in all its aspects.

Yet it would be wrong to conclude that the young Hitler threw himself heart and soul into the political struggle of the day. A pale, sickly, lanky youth, quite unknown and inexperienced in the ways of the city, shy and reticent rather than pushing, he carried on this intense activity all on his own. Only the most important ideas and solutions, that needed an audience, would he propound in the evening to me, an equally insignificant and lonely figure. The young Hitler's relationship to politics is similar to his attitude to love – if I may be permitted this rather indelicate comparison. The more intensely he was intellectually occupied with politics, the more did he refrain from taking part in practical, political activity. He did not join any party or organization, did not take part in party manifestations, and took care not to spread his own ideas outside of our friendship. What I noticed then in him in Linz – to stick to my metaphor – may be described as a first ogling with politics, nothing more, as though he had had a presentiment of what politics would come to mean to him.

For the time being, politics remained for him only an exercise in the realm of ideas. This striking reticence shows a trait in his character that seems to contradict his impatience – his ability to wait. Politics remained for him for some years a matter of watching, of criticising social conditions, of study, gathering experience; it remained a matter private to himself, and consequently without any importance for the public life of that day.

It is interesting to note that the young Hitler in those years was strongly opposed to everything military. This seems to be contradicted by a passage in Mein Kampf.

While going through my father's library, I came across several books on military subjects, among them a popular edition of the history of the Franco-German War. 18701871; two volumes of an illustrated magazine of those years now became my favourite reading, and before long this heroic struggle had become my greatest intellectual experience. From now on, I grew increasingly enthusiastic for everything that had anything to do with war or soldiers.

I suspect that this recollection owes its existence to the circumstances of his imprisonment in Landsberg, where his book was written; for when I knew Adolf Hitler, he was utterly averse to "anything to do with war or soldiers." Of course he was annoyed by the young lieutenants who fluttered around Stefanie. But his aversion was deeper. Even the idea of compulsory military service could infuriate him. No, he would never let himself be forced into being a soldier. If he ever became a soldier he would do it of his own free will, and certainly never in the Austrian army.

Before concluding this chapter on Adolf Hitler's political development, I would like to deal with two questions, which seem to me to be more important than anything else there is to say about politics: the young Hitler's attitude to Jewry and to the church. Adolf Hitler himself writes about his attitude to the Jewish problem during the years in Linz:

It is difficult, if not impossible, for me today to say when the word "Jew" first gave me food for thought. At home, in my father's lifetime, I cannot remember ever having heard the word. I believe that the old gentleman would have thought it a cultural retrogression to give this word any special emphasis. In the course of his life he had acquired some more or less cosmopolitan ideas, which not only coexisted with his strong nationalism, but influenced me too. And at school nothing led me to change this inherited conception.

It is true that at the Technical School I met a Jewish boy, whom we all handled with care, but only because owing to various experiences, we couldn't rely on him not to give us away. But we didn't give the matter any thought.

Not before I was fourteen or fifteen years old did I occasionally hear the word "Jew," partly in the course of political conversations. I felt a slight resentment against it and the usual unpleasant feeling that overcame me when people quibbled about religious matters in my presence.

That was all I knew about it. There were not many Jews in Linz....

All this sounds very plausible, but it doesn't correspond to my impressions.

To begin with, it seems to me that the character sketch of his father had been touched up to emphasise his liberal ideas. The circle in which he moved in Linz already subscribed to the ideas of Schönerer, and it can therefore be presumed that his father was also against Jews.

In describing the school years, Hitler omits to mention that some of the teachers of the Technical School were openly anti-Semitic and made no bones about acknowledging their hatred of the Jews in front of their pupils; and Hitler, at the Technical School, must certainly have been aware of the political aspects of the Jewish problem. It cannot have been otherwise, for when I met Adolf Hitler first, his anti-Semitism was already pronounced. I remember distinctly that once when we were going along the Bethlehemstrasse and passed the little synagogue, he said to me, "This shouldn't be here."

As far as I know, Adolf Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite when he went to Vienna. And although his experiences in Vienna might have deepened this feeling, they certainly did not give birth to it.

In my opinion, Adolf Hitler's own version seeks to convey the following: In Linz, where the number of Jews was negligible, the question did not concern me. It was only in Vienna, where the Jews were more numerous, that I was forced to face this problem.

His attitude to the church is a somewhat different matter. Mein Kampf hardly mentions it at all, except for a description of his childhood experiences in Lambach.

As I had singing lessons at the Monastery in Lambach in my spare time, I had an excellent opportunity of revelling, again and again, in the festive splendour of the magnificent church ceremonies. Nothing was more natural than that I should see a most desirable ideal in the Abbot, as once my father had done in the little parish priest. This was so, at any rate, for some time.

Hitler's forebears were certainly religious, churchgoing people, as is natural with peasant folk. But Hitler's own parents were divided in this respect; his mother was pious and devout, his father liberal, a lukewarm Christian. It is certain that the question of the church interested his father more than the Jewish problem. As a servant of the state, in view of the close connection between state and church, he could not afford to be openly anti-clerical.

As long as the little Adolf remained close to his mother, he was completely influenced by her devout behaviour and receptive to all the grandeur and beauty of the church. The pale little choir boy was absorbed by his faith. Though Hitler devotes only a few words to the subject, what he does say means a lot. The magnificent monastery had become familiar to him. In his childish susceptibility he was attracted by the church and his mother certainly encouraged him. As he grew away from his childhood experience, with the passing of the years, and became closer to his father, the latter's liberalism gained in influence. The school in Linz also helped. Franz Sales Schwarz, who taught religion at the Technical School, was not the man to have any effect on these young people, for the pupils did not take him seriously.

My own recollections can be summed up in a few sentences: as long as I knew Adolf Hitler I never remember his going to church. He knew that I used to go every Sunday with my parents, and accepted this fact. He never tried to persuade me not to go, though he said occasionally that he couldn't understand me – his mother was also a religious woman, but nevertheless he would not let her drag him to church. Moreover he made these comments only by the way, with a certain tolerance and patience, which was not usual with him. But in this case, apparently, he was not even interested in imposing his own idea. I cannot remember that, when he used to meet me at the close of the Sunday service, he ever made any derogatory remarks about this Sunday churchgoing, or behaved improperly. To my astonishment, he never made this an occasion for an argument.

Yet one day he came to me full of excitement and showed me a book about witch trials, and another time about the Inquisition. But however worked up he got about the events described in these books, he never drew any political conclusions from them. Perhaps this was a case in which he did not consider me the right audience.

Every Sunday his mother went, with little Paula, to Mass. I can't remember that Adolf ever accompanied her, or that Frau Klara would have asked him to. Devout as she was herself, she was resigned to the fact that her son was different. It may be that in this case she was held back by the different attitudes of the father, whose precept and example was still her model for her son.

In conclusion, I would describe Hitler's attitude towards the church at that time as follows: he was by no means indifferent to the church, but the church could give him nothing.

To sum up, it can be said: Adolf Hitler became a Nationalist. I have seen with what absolute dedication, even as early as that, he gave himself to the people whom he loved. Only in this people could he live. He knew nothing other than this people.